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Linda D. Pollack knows what she likes in a kitchen.

She likes to see beautiful cabinetry. Not a bunch of appliances.

She likes a marriage of textures -- woods, glass and stainless steel.

She likes a lighting system with multiple settings, including one she calls "dinner for two."

And, as she says, "I like a kitchen to breathe."

That means leaving some wall space for artwork -- or nothing at all. Eliminating "sameness" by mixing materials "so your eyes move around." And not having a lot of clutter, storing everything from spices to cutlery to small appliances within easy reach in drawers or behind doors.

A panel of judges at a major design competition liked what Pollack likes in a kitchen, as well.

Pollack's kitchen placed second in the "medium kitchens" category at the 2003 NKBA Design Competition, sponsored by the National Kitchen and Bath Association. The contest, which includes 11 categories of competition, attracted nearly 400 entries from the United States and Canada.

Citing the well-documented "home-as-retreat" trend, Pollack this week talked about people and their kitchens.

"Trends today are showing that people want to be surrounded by convenience and luxury in their homes," said Pollack, who collaborated with two Toronto designers to create her award-winning kitchen.

And the kitchen is the major place they put their money.

After the cost of buying a home, "the next largest expenditure is the kitchen," she said.

And that expenditure is indeed large.

A brand new, average-size kitchen with high-end appliances, quality custom cabinetry with such features as ball-bearing, full-extension drawers and concealed hinges, etc. can run $75,000 to $100,000, estimates Pollack.

Add one-third more for a rehab, which involves demolishing the old kitchen, adding new wiring and plumbing, etc.

Even a basic kitchen with stock cabinets and standard depth-and-width appliances can easily run $20,000 to $35,000, she said.

No matter the budget, the key is the design of the kitchen. It has to work for the people who use it, which is why it is so important -- even for those who plan to do some or most of the work themselves -- to get a professional designer or architect involved in the design stage.

"The kitchen has to be designed well to suit the individual and the budget," said Pollack, who lives with her husband, David, in a historic co-op building on Delaware Avenue.

Even the most beautiful kitchen in town won't function well if the appliances aren't sensibly placed, the lighting is bad or a cabinet door doesn't have the clearance to open properly.

Today's kitchen trends as Pollack sees them:

A mixing of elements where not everything needs to match.

"I played with texture, texture, texture," Pollack said.

Her kitchen features four woods -- Tamo ash, anigre, natural maple and bird's-eye maple. The counter tops near the main working area are stainless steel with a "marine" lip on the front edge to contain spills.

With stainless steel, "you can bang the heck out of it, and it takes any amount of heat or cold," Pollack said.

Another counter top at the other end of the kitchen is granite, ideal for rolling out pastry or setting up a buffet.

This second work area features an additional sink, a second dishwasher, Sub-Zero refrigerator drawers, cabinets filled with barware and more. A Tamo ash desk is at this end, too, under a low window.

Increased use of the various types of glass for door fronts, shelving and back splashes -- "things your imagination will run away with," Pollack said.

Colored glass tiles used for back splashes are popular, for example.

In Pollack's kitchen, barware is visible behind pebble glass doors. "Fewer finger prints," she said. China and serving pieces are displayed on curvy-front textured glass shelf in a bird's-eye maple cabinet. The table features a glass top, etched and sandblasted on the underside with hieroglyphics. And the overhead exhaust vent combines glass with stainless steel.

"Glass is a big element for the future," she said.

Bringing technology to the kitchen. Think plasma or LCD televisions for early morning viewing or nightly news. Sophisticated lighting systems. And more applications of new technology, such as remote-activated appliances.

And don't forget the small touches. Two details of note from Pollack's kitchen: She likes to keep fresh flowers around at all times. And she likes pops of red.

The base of the glass table is upholstered in red leather from Spinneybeck, a local leather supplier. And there's nothing like a bowl of fresh strawberries or red peppers to add a dash of stylish oomph. e-mail:

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